A little piece of my heart broke this morning as I just heard that Donna Summer has died at the age of 63. I saw her once back in the disco days in Ottawa and fell in love with her beauty and talent. So enamored of her I used a lot of her music in the first Disco fashion show ever done in the Ottawa/ Hull area at Saks Disco Bar in the 70’s.
Saks was filed to capacity that night and people were standing on beer cases to see the stage, yet when her music came on everyone swayed and sang together. There has not been a week that I have not played her music and until I die my tradition will not stop.
Donna’s real name was actually LaDonna Adrian Gaines born in December of 1948 just barely hours away from the New Year. Influenced by the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson she began singing in the church choir.
In the 60’s Summer and her sister and cousin formed a musical group imitating her fave Motown groups comparing themselves to The Supremes. However, that was short lived and she joined a band called The Crow attempting to sound like Janis Joplin. In 1968 she tried to join the Broadway musical Hair and lost out to singer Melba Moore for the part of Sheila. When the musical went to Europe she got chosen and ended up in Germany for a few years doing German musicals
While singing as a backup for the 70’s band Three Dog Night she met music producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. In 1975, Summer approached Moroder with an idea for a song she and Bellotte were working on for another singer. She had come up with the lyric “love to love you, baby.”
Although some radio stations refused to play it due to its suggestive style, “Love to Love You” found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the UK and the rest is history.
The icon died today at the age of 63 and is understood to have battled lung cancer that she believed she contracted by inhaling toxic particles after the 9/11 attacks. Sources told TMZ she had attempted to keep the extent of her illness from fans and was recently trying to finish up her latest album in Florida at the time of her death. Summer was was a 5-time Grammy winner who shot to stardom in the ’70s and people like me bought and played hits like “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” and will miss her greatly.
Summer is survived by her husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, as well as her daughter Mimi from her previous marriage
Thanks to Wanda Rudd! Wanda, you are a Disco historian!
Love and hugs to: Jacki Koupri Armstrong, Michael LaFleur, Dennis Charlebois and the late Disco Viva in Hull, Quebe.
Clothing design by Linda (Ducharme) Seccaspina from the late Flash Cadilac Clothing Co. in Ottawa Ontario.
Photos of Disco Viva, Hull, Quebec by DJ Don Tremblay